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Bob Zellner interview, Part 1
Rogers, Kim Lacy
Bob Zellner begins the interview by describing his work in labor organizing and soliciting more involvement of White southerners, particularly working class Mississippians, in Civil rights activism. He describes working with Mississippi woodcutters in these efforts. He briefly mentions his work with the Southern Conference Educational Fund (SCEF) and that organizations' Gulf Project and explains how his background as a carpenter informed his later work in labor organizing. Dottie Zellner overviews her career as a nurse and both describe their work with SCEF's Gulf Project. They name individuals they collaborated with on this project and explain its basic ethos in working to counter stereotypes of Whites as a "monolith" and to foster participation in interracial progressive causes beyond that of just economic elites, out of common goals and interests. She notes that there had not been much organization among working class Whites since the Great Depression. She adds that Fannie Lou Hamer connected the Zellners with working class Whites in the Mississippi Delta and notes the abject poverty among Blacks and Whites alike in this region. They describe assisting with a mayoral campaign in Mississippi under the Working People's Independent Party. Dottie offers that for their first couple years they found it difficult to recruit African Americans to their cause, but that Walter Collins and Lionel McIntyre were among the first to join in. Bob details organizing at a Masonite Corporation factory in Laurel, Mississippi, and how he gradually gained the support of striking workers at the plant, including rumored Klan influence in the labor union there. He describes an alliance with Claude Ramsay of the AFL-CIO based in Jackson, Mississippi. He mentions holding pro-union rallies in Jones County, Mississippi, in a cow pasture, and despite the interracial attendees, which numbered in the hundreds, many of the White members had bumper stickers on their cars promoting George Wallace's presidential campaign. Bob describes meeting with a pro-union Klansman, who was able to put aside his segregationist beliefs when it came to union organizing "u2013 perhaps without fully acknowledging these contradictions; ultimately, this man jokes that he describes himself as a "joiner" and adds "I've joined the Klan and now I've joined the Civil rights." Dottie and Bob overview how their views on Race relations have changed "u2013 or not "u2013 in the intervening years since the 1960s. Note: This is the second joint interview with Bob and Dottie Zellner. The first interview with the Zellners, conducted earlier in the same month, has indiscernible audio throughout.
Amistad Research Center
Box 8, Item 28, Side 1, Kim Lacy Rogers collection, Amistad Research Center at Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana
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